9 Apr 2012
I have considered myself a cook since being a very young child. I used to watch cooking shows on television as a young boy – my favorite being The Urban Peasant (a long running Canadian cooking show). As I got older, I became obsessed with science meets food with Good Eats and Alton Brown, and today I’m a huge fan of Cook’s Illustrated and their methodical attempts to perfect food.
What I have learned through cooking is that simple food is usually best. It sounds very Californian to say that we should let ingredients shine, but I think it’s true. If you can’t make the main ingredients taste good, then you shouldn’t be cooking! I’m not a vegetarian, but I love vegetables. As a child, I only liked vegetables – they were typically steamed, cut into a salad, or occasionally in a more fancy dish. But I found them slightly bland and uninteresting. Today, vegetables are the main part of my diet, thanks to a simple technique called roasting.
This recipe works with pretty much every vegetable. Cut up said vegetable into ½“ to 1” pieces. Put in a bowl and toss with a liberal amount of olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper. Place on a foiled and greased cookie sheet being sure that the pan is not crowded – use two sheets if needed. Put in a 425 degree oven for 30-50 minutes tossing every 10 minutes. You’ll be rewarded with some fine caramelization of the vegetables which will enhance the taste of the vegetables. The reason roasting vegetables tastes so good, is because most vegetables are made up of mostly water. Roasting at high heat causes the vegetables to lose a lot of their water content, concentrating the flavor of the vegetable. The added sugars from caramelization and some fat/salt enhance the flavor. My favorite vegetables to roast include butternut squash, beets, sunchokes, eggplant, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower. For some great variation, try the below:
- Cauliflower: add 1-2 coarsely chopped/diced onions to the roast
- Brussels Sprouts: Right before they’re finished, pour a few tbsp. of balsamic vinegar over them, and allow them to continue roasting until the balsamic is a glaze
- Squash: add a few teaspoons of curry powder
- Fennel: add some fresh apple and maple syrup
- Kale: it’s hard to beat roasted kale – they come out crisp like chips!
- Mushrooms: Add some chopped garlic to the mix, and finish with fresh parsley
- Beets: serve with goat cheese
- Carrots: Roast with fresh thyme
The roasting trick works with pretty much any vegetable – though I wouldn’t recommend celery or cucumbers.
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